What’s the secret to taking the best relationships in your life and making them even more valuable? What if the people in your life that are closest to you could be your greatest asset? What if their honest insights were the one thing you needed to open new doors and achieve your goals?

My challenge for you today is simple. Find one or two people in your circle that you trust, take a risk with them, and give them nagging rights and zero cost of candor. Here’s what I mean and how it will change your life…

I originally picked up these two concepts in the book How Goodness Pays, where Paul Batz and Paul Hillen introduced these ideas as they were exploring the data and ROI of goodness. As part of a chapter dedicated to creating a team-based culture, they introduced “nagging rights” and “zero cost of candor” as well as the impact both can create. The nagging rights concept came from David Maister at Harvard Business School, who defined it as willingly, knowingly, and voluntarily giving someone else the right to keep you honest and accountable to your goals. Zero cost of candor is defined in the book as being able to speak openly about any subject without suffering consequences. 

I’ve been thinking about each of these concepts for the last few months since reading the book. Frankly, granting someone else that kind of power in my life is scary – giving them the permission to be honest with me and call me out when I need it is a big leap. 

It’s a little daunting.

Opening the door to getting pushed when I don’t want to requires a certain level of vulnerability. What I keep coming back to is this… none of us ever accomplishes anything alone. I lead my agency alongside two fantastic business partners, at home I work hand-in-hand with my amazing wife Cristina, and in between, I have great friends who take on the role of my personal “board of directors.” The most significant things in my life have been created with other people by my side, never solo.

Knowing this, and acknowledging the potential impact of nagging rights and zero cost of candor in my life, I’ve been thinking hard about what this really means. If I truly believe in the power of other’s voices in my life, and acknowledge their ability to help me create even greater results, then what’s required for me to make these two concepts part of my relationships?

Here are three keys I’ve discovered to leveraging them in your life:

  1. Nagging rights and zero cost of candor require an amazing amount of open communication, trust, and honesty. To extend either of these to anyone in our circle, and to allow them the ability to get brutally honest and push us out of our comfort zone, we need to trust 100% that their feedback is coming from the right place. If there is any doubt as to whether they have our back and care deeply about us, we’ll never receive the feedback fully.
  2. Nagging rights and zero cost of candor require an openness to the candor and the desire to grow and change. As we shared in point one, trust is an essential ingredient for us to get vulnerable and drop all our shields and masks. It’s one thing to ask the people in our circle to be open and candid with us, but if they get honest with us and then we resist their feedback or discount its value, everything breaks down. We need to quit running. The only way these concepts create their true impact is if we’re willing to hear it and accept it without reservation.
  3. Nagging rights and zero cost of candor require deep relationships with people who know us, understand us, and have made the personal investment in us to deliver the candor. These aren’t surface relationships or people that know us from a distance, but the ones who know the authentic us. Where there is hiding, and we’re not letting people in, we can’t expect these concepts to work. The reality is this… at some point, someone is going to nag you hard and hold you accountable to something you shared, or they’re going to be candid with you about a weakness or blindspot. If a deep, healthy relationship isn’t present with that individual and you don’t truly value their opinion, you’re going to push back, be unreceptive, or get defensive.

Let’s dig into that for a quick second. Getting defensive is not an option when receiving nagging rights or zero cost of candor. The individual that you’ve extended nagging rights or zero cost of candor to is simply doing what you asked them to do. That said, a defensive stance will only make them want to go silent, back to where it’s safe within your relationship. If they push you the way you’ve asked them to, and you push back, everything suffers. The conversation goes silent, their voice goes quiet, and your growth slows or stops.

For me, this can be challenging.

I want to grow, I want to improve my results, and I want to be a better business partner, husband, father, and friend. All that said, there are also moments when someone shares one of my shortcomings with me, and I want to fire back and defend myself rather than being genuinely open to growth. In these moments, I work hard to catch myself, reset my mind, and open up to what I’m hearing to receive it. That’s not always easy and can be very challenging, but it can also be the first step to growing personally and professionally.

The Takeaway

Quit running. Find that one person, or two if you like, that you’re willing to give nagging rights and zero cost of candor. Then, be open (sometimes even when you don’t want to) to their feedback. Ask them to push you, and then LET them push you. You’ll be glad you did!